’Professional costs’ are the fees payable to lawyers for performing their professional legal services on behalf of their clients.
Professional costs do not include amounts reimbursing disbursements. However, professional costs sometimes include counsel’s fees.
Professional costs include:
- lawyers’ internal photocopying, telephone and fax charges
- lawyers’ courier and delivery fees for:
- sending briefs to counsel
- sending documents to witnesses.
Under the Legal Aid Act 1978, Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) determines schedules of payments to be made to private lawyers who provide legal services to assisted people.
VLA pays lawyers’ professional costs at either 100 per cent of a lump sum fee or a stage of matter limit calculated by reference to statutory schedules.
Sometimes, VLA may agree with private lawyers to pay professional costs at rates which differ from those set out in the schedules.
Some matters may be limited by cost ceilings imposed by the Commonwealth Government.
For the details of all the professional costs payable by VLA see:
- Costs payable in criminal law matters
- Costs payable in Commonwealth family law matters
- Costs payable in State family matters
- Costs payable in civil law matters.
All payments set out in this section include GST. They apply only to private lawyers who are GST registered. If a private lawyer is not GST registered, then the fees here must be reduced by one-eleventh.
Private lawyers must give VLA a tax invoice for the work they have performed. They may include claims only for the fees to which they are entitled. If a lawyer claims more fees than those to which they are entitled, VLA will either return the invoice to the lawyer for amendment or pay a reduced amount.
Tax invoices submitted electronically
Some tax invoices used by private lawyers and in-house lawyers are pre-prepared electronic tax invoices.
Invoices used in this way differ from other invoices because it is the recipient of the services (VLA), rather than the service provider (the practitioner) who creates the invoice. These tax invoices are referred to as ‘recipient-created tax invoices’ (RCTIs).
For the purposes of GST legislation, RCTI users must have a formal agreement in place with VLA. VLA has therefore created a Recipient-created Tax Invoice Agreement for private lawyers who use electronic lodgement.
Payments and reporting
VLA may make interim payments of professional costs at the end of each stage of a grant of assistance.
Lawyers are required to submit final tax invoices and a final report within 30 days of completion of the matter for which legal assistance was provided.
Costs related to the administration of the grant of assistance
VLA does not pay private lawyers for any costs related to the administration of the grant of assistance. A lawyer can claim only the professional costs and disbursements related to the conduct of the case. For example, correspondence and attendances on VLA in respect to a grant of assistance are not claimable.
A private lawyer must not demand, take or accept any other payment
If a private lawyer provides legal services to an assisted person, then the lawyer must not demand, take or accept any payment for those services except the payment to which the lawyer is entitled under the Legal Aid Act.
If a private lawyer breaks this rule, then the lawyer may be fined 50 penalty units or be imprisoned for six months.